David Bowie Bassist Gail Ann Dorsey: ‘He Altered the Course of My Life’
Sometime back in 1989, David Bowie was flipping through the channels in England when he came across an interview with Gail Ann Dorsey promoting her debut album, The Corporate World. “Years later, he told me he thought to himself, ‘Wow, this woman is really interesting,'” says Dorsey. “‘When I’m doing the right project, I would love to work with her.'”
It took six years, but when Bowie was putting together a band to go on tour with Nine Inch Nails, he phoned up Dorsey to see if she’d be willing to serve as his bassist. “I was kind of in shock that it was actually him on the phone,” she says. “At first, I thought it was somebody playing a prank on me. When I realized it wasn’t, I said to him, ‘I’m in the middle of making a record; let me speak to my producer and get back to you.’ We’d just started the record and we’d spent all this time and money, but he said, ‘But that’s David Bowie. You have to go.'”
Dorsey started out on a six-week contract but wound up serving as Bowie’s touring bassist all the way through his final concerts in 2004. She also played on 1997’s Earthling and 2013’s The Next Day. About a week after Bowie’s shocking passing, Dorsey got on the phone with Rolling Stone to talk about her nearly two-decade run with the iconic artist.
Did you grow up a big Bowie fan?
I won’t say I was one of those nutcases that knew every detail, but I had a time period that was my favorite, which was Young Americans and Station to Station. I especially loved Young Americans since I’m from Philly and it was recorded there and it has that sort of soul tinge to it. I did like Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust, but I just knew the hit songs from there. The other thing always in my mind was that regardless of what he was doing at any point in time, I always thought he had the best singing voice of all the male rock stars. He had every emotion covered and every range.
Your first tour was the Nine Inch Nails double bill. That must have been tough since so many fans at that show were young and didn’t really know his catalog.
What I learned at that time was that a lot of the audience knew him because they knew Nirvana’s version of “The Man Who Sold the World.” I thought that was funny. We played pretty much all of the Outside record, which was pretty out there at the time. I wasn’t even sure I liked it myself at first. But over the years of playing the music, I really became a fan. He really had a God-given gift with music. He made decisions that no one else would see or hear.
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